A year of Dungeons & Dragons among the books

Jul. 26, 2014 @ 07:27 PM

It’s been a year since John Davis started offering a monthly Dungeons and Dragons game day at the Durham County Public Library’s main branch.

“This is something traditionally that has happened in someone’s house or comic book stores,” Davis said. “What we’re doing is a compact, short and usually a on-shot, a story arc that concludes in a story setting.”

Davis has been a librarian with Durham since 2011. It was through conversations with friends and library patrons that he saw a need to start offering the monthly sessions. He was hearing a common theme – people were interested, but couldn’t find the time to play and didn’t have anyone willing to lead.

Davis changed that.

“I think that there is a need or at least an interest in this kind of thing,” Davis said.

Once a month since July 2013 Davis has gathered a group of adventurers in the library to take part in a new journey.

“My goal here is to have people here who learn about it in the library, then go check out the books, and play,” Davis said.

Dungeons and Dragons, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, is a fantasy role-playing game in which players take on the role of heroic characters. These characters then battle together for a common purpose. The game promotes collaboration, creative problem solving and literacy.

Since Davis began putting on the programs, he said, he’s seen a multitude of people come in to play, ranging in age from 7 to more than 40. Players range in skill level from beginners to those who have played in multiple D&D campaigns.

Davis said another great aspect of holding D&D in the library was the number of women who have showed up to participate.

“Close to half of the people who come in have been women,” Davis said. He said he’s seen a great amount of racial diversity in his players.

Davis applied for a grant during the year to purchase miniature figurines and have them hand-painted to match the diversity so they wouldn’t have “just a sea of whiteness” to represent their characters.

When the monthly game rolls around it’s almost like a house party. Players and spectators greet each other and hug. Many catch up as it’s the only time they see each other.

Davis has built a community among the players that come to the library monthly. He addresses many by their first names, sometimes even guessing which character they’ll use during the day’s play.

If a newcomer arrives, he makes sure he learns his or her name and checks to see where he or she is on the waiting list. Davis takes five active players every month. They have to sign up in advance. Those who register after the first five are put on a waiting list to play the day of.

Davis said depending on any given month seven to 27 people could show up. To him, that is “overwhelming,” in a good way.

“I’m an enormous geek … I love sharing stuff that I’m passionate about,” he said.

Another huge draw for him and the players is the creativity that they get to use in every game.

“We’re making a story together,” Davis said.

The monthly game will continue for a second year, Davis said. However, he hopes that someday the “monthly” part will change.

“I would love to be able to do it more than once a month,” Davis said. “It would be wonderful.”